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Vernon group puts art in action

Image Credit: The Wayfinder Project
March 06, 2014 - 4:26 PM

VERNON - A local group is using art to fill a variety of needs in the community.

Whether it’s brightening the alleys with art or involving at-risk youth in painting murals, The Wayfinder Project is responding to the needs of the community from its new office space at the Downtown Vernon Association.

The Wayfinder Project is the brainchild of Vernon muralist Michelle Loughery, whose portfolio is imprinted on the many murals of downtown Vernon. She’s seen what the good art can do for a person, and for a community.

“It helps people find their way: youth, elders, artists, the community,” Loughery says.

She believes community-based art can help heal social injustices like residential schools and the internment of Ukranians in Vernon during the First World War. The Wayfinder Project will seek to give a voice to all those who have suffered injustices and create a conversation about issues faced today.

“Right now, the Downtown Vernon Association has a need for us to clean up their alleys. And there’s always a need for youth, and always a need for elders. We respond to the needs wherever they are,” Loughery says.

At the same time, it will involve an educational aspect best described by Wayfinder artist Robyn Soderberg. As a student teacher, she’s involving her grade 6/7 class at Ellison Elementary in a social justice themed art project which will include an exhibit at the Wayfinder office.

“You’re creating a piece of art with the kids, but it’s also cross curricular. It’s social studies, science, environmental studies, and they’re learning to collaborate together,” she says.

Another Wayfinder, Ryan Robson, is focusing on the benefits community art can bring to at-risk youth. As a coordinator at Teen Junction, she’s been involving youth who have dropped out of school or are facing other challenges. Okanagan Indian Band artist Sheldon Louis is embracing the opportunity to send a message. 

“You can actually tell a story and grab somebody’s attention and from there start talking about other things that are happening,” Louis says. “This whole project is about change, not just social change, but change in general.”

As the movement builds in Vernon, the Wayfinders will also act as consultants for other communities wanting to spark similar projects. Loughery has 20 years of experience in community art. She knows her way around grant writing and networking, and she’s more than happy to share that expertise.

“It’s connecting all these communities we’re working with and training a group of artists. If you don’t have a place to come to make that happen it’s pretty hard,” Loughery says. “The one thing most communities lack is artists never come together.”

It’s why she’s so exciting to have a home base in the Downtown Vernon Association. The space is used for studio work, exhibits and meetings.

“We had this crazy idea to form an emerging artist's group and art in action project down town and before we knew it, here we are,” Loughery says.

To contact the reporter for this story, email Charlotte Helston at or call 250-309-5230.

News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2014
InfoTel News Ltd

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